The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree

A Living Symbol of Resilience, Renewal, and Rebirth

In the center of the 9/11 Memorial stands a Callery pear tree of great significance. Proudly reaching over 30 feet tall, it is the first tree each year to bloom and the last to lose its leaves. It’s a striking symbol of the revitalization of the World Trade Center site.

It was nearly a month after the attacks that recovery workers discovered a branch poking out from the rubble. They cleared everything out of the way and found a bruised, burned, uprooted tree with only a few leaves on one single branch. It was still alive.

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation brought this tree to a nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, where it re-rooted and, with nurturing care, thrived. In the spring of 2002, the tree sprouted full of leaves and a dove made a nest in the boughs. They aptly named it The Survivor Tree.

Planted in the early 1970s as the World Trade Center opened, it was a constant presence as New Yorkers made their way to and from work each day in the Twin Towers. The moment the tree was discovered amongst the debris, over a hundred feet from its longtime home, was one of great joy. Amid all the devastation these recovery workers saw during that time, this tree uplifted them in a much-needed way.

When Ronaldo Vega came in as a special project manager in 2007, he remembered the story of the tree. He went to the Bronx to find it and immediately fell in love. In an interview, he said, “She was a fighter. We knew she was going to come back here.”

In October of 2010, the tree finally returned home. You will often find visitors standing beneath its branches that reach towards the sky in a moment of reflection. Amongst all the emotions the memorial can evoke, this tree brings up thoughts of renewal, rebirth, and resilience.

The gift of this tree is not only present amongst the 9/11 Memorial Pools. In 2013, the Survivor Tree Seedling Program began in partnership with Bartlett Tree Experts of Stamford, CT and John Bowne High School in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. Each year, three communities that have endured tragedy are selected to receive seedlings from the Survivor Tree. These communities commit to nurturing these trees to serve as landmarks that symbolize resilience and hope.

In recent years, saplings have been given to Ukraine, Uvalde, Buffalo, Santa Fe High School, Hospitals in NYC for their response to the pandemic, Parkland, and many more. The connection this creates expands on the love and hope that can be found in the memorial, spreading it throughout the world.

On Metropolis Tour’s 9/11 Ground Zero Walking Tour you will visit The Survivor Tree. Up close, you will see the scarred trunk and lower branches that give way to smooth, new limbs. This visibly marks the time before the attacks and what has come since. It is the renewal that comes from survival.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is a profoundly emotional experience. A guided tour brings all those feelings together as you learn the symbolism and meaning held within the memorial. You can book the tour at .    

We look forward to sharing the many beautiful elements of the memorial and the stories of the heroes and victims of the day. The experience ends at this powerful tree that has survived so much and continues to thrive.

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